United we stand!

Column Harveer Singh Sahni

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Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi
Hearing this anyone may come to the conclusion that there may have been a handful of attendees and those deliberations may have been manoeuvred. Contrary to this, label manufacturers and suppliers from across the country were present. There were members from New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Aurangabad, Bangalore, Sivakasi, Hyderabad, etc.  It was a full house! The new president Vivek Kapoor of Creative Labels Mumbai took over from the outgoing President Manish Desai of Mudrika Labels. Vivek Kapoor announced his new team consisting of three associate members and rest all label printers. The election of the new Vice President, who would take over as president two years later, was conducted unanimously. Ajay Agarwal of Syndicate Labels, New Delhi was elected as the vice president.
The printers had expressed their resolve to give LMAI a truly national character by electing a person from North India to take over reigns two years hence. Industry suppliers extended their support substantially. Most of the important label stock manufacturers including the two multinationals, printing equipment suppliers, consumable suppliers were present to rub shoulders with their important customers. Fellowship and networking in the label industry acquired a new meaning. It is time we create more platforms and systems whereby the constituents of this industry have opportunities to meet, share knowledge and make new and fruitful associations. This will also enable them to debate tricky issues and problems and evolve ways to their solution.

One needs to learn from the FINAT Congress. While I write this, the FINAT Congress 2009 is taking place in Antalya Turkey. Last year the Paris Congress was attended by almost 550 delegates. The sense of satisfaction of having spent quality time in learning, networking and entertaining was evident amongst the attendees representing the Global Label community. At the LMAI AGM in Mumbai, as a member of the FINAT committees I had the pleasure of carrying a felicitation and thank you letter from the outgoing FINAT president Jan Fredrick Vink to the outgoing LMAI president Manish Desai. The letter also announced the formation of the FINAT Board of the Young Managers Club. Pawandeep Sahni of Weldon Celloplast Limited has been inducted as a member of this young managers board from India. It is time we also look at the possibility of creating a forum for our next generation on lines of FINAT Young Managers Club. At the last label show these youngsters looked bright and inspiring, walking tall along with their parents/mentors. They have been trained hands on and are intellectually equipped to take the challenges facing us today.

At the unique Mumbai meeting an extremely healthy and positive brainstorming session took place at the informal meeting of the members after the AGM had ended. Issues and problems facing the industry in these trying times were put forward and debated. Almost everyone gave their inputs paving the way for making representations to authorities or persons where required. The dynamic general secretary Mr. Deshpande provided much needed information on government grants, incentives and subsidies available to the printing industry at large. The printers also have started to plan a conference in November 2009 at Goa. This will provide the much-needed unified industry platform and networking opportunities. We need to congratulate LMAI for this effort to bring the industry together. United we stand!

I (bullet) Appreciation – Hari Prasad Gupta
At the end of the seventies, Hari Prasad Gupta exited an illustrious career in textiles. While it may have been time for others his age to retire, he still had a voracious appetite for industry. On the prowl and looking at new and exciting areas where he could achieve the satisfactions of endeavor and success, he found the nascent and new area of labels was for him. He worked hard setting up his startup venture HP Labellette Pvt. Ltd. Around the same time during one of my foreign trips I saw the amazing shift from paper tapes to self adhesive BOPP tapes. Pressure sensitive adhesives were making news everywhere. I was looking around and evaluating ways how to enter this industry. I wanted to test my ideas by trading or outsourcing when I heard that Hari Gupta was in the process of setting up his venture. His first 20-inch Japanese coater and ancillary equipment had arrived.
I remember the day I walked into his factory at Okhla in New Delhi. He was like a young kid with his new toys, extremely excited. He took me inside to show what he had acquired — one of the rare occasions this grand old man let anyone inside his factory. I was surprised that all the equipment was fully covered with a dark coloured fabric. The Japanese coater was elegant when uncovered — a multipurpose coater and could produce a range of products. I was further surprised to see that he also had bought a Japanese flatbed label printing press that was later sold to Krishna Printernational. He had already integrated forward! He was a true pioneer and ahead of time, he produced labelstock, tapes and also self-adhesive labels.

Labelstock producers today would envy the likes of Mr. Gupta if they knew that he drove in more profits making label stock then labels. It is unthinkable today. At a time when face paper, base paper and adhesives were all priced at around Rs 20 to 25 a kilogram and a 190 kilogram barrel of silicone was cost less than Rs 9000 compared to Rs 1 lakh today, Hari Gupta sold label stock at Rs.21.00 to 26.00 a square metre!!! We cannot even imagine this — today labelstocks sell at Rs 15 to 20 a square metre with raw material cost between 80 to 85%. No wonder he sold the label press. He could talk of rationing his end product and would not accept any claims. Rejections and claims are prevalent all over the industry today and are a supplier’s nightmare. For a full decade HP Labellete grew and made money. By the end of nineties competition crept in and Mr. Gupta had aged substantially. He started to withdraw from the market and kept supplying selectively. He had also lost money with some printers who did not pay him his dues. It was at a Printpack Exhibition in 1999 that I saw an old, unwell and tired Hari Gupta walk up to my stand. I was wondering why he came. He was looking for someone who had to pay him and he thought he could meet him at the show. Mr. Gupta could not find the errant customer he had come looking for. Dejectedly he walked away and out of the show, and that was the last time I saw this grand old man of the label industry. Later I learned from friends in the industry that he had passed away. This part of my column is a tribute to this man who contributed to the history of self-adhesive label in India.
Harveer Sahni is the Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi